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Palace cautious on Sabah standoff

MALACAÑANG distanced itself from the brewing standoff at Sabah as it awaits further updates from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the tense situation between Malaysian soldiers and armed followers of the family members of the Sultan of Sulu who were tasked to assert their “ancestral and sovereign rights” over North Borneo.

“At this point,hindi na muna tayo magko-komento,”Palace Deputy SpokesmanAbigail Valtesaid on Sunday.

“We’d like to defer comment on that and the DFA will be the one who will give us updates on the situation in Sabah, if and when they deem it to be necessary,” Valte added.

This developed as former Senate President Ernesto Maceda prodded the government to resume active pursuit of the Philippines’s claim to Sabah.

“It has been neglected and sleeping for a long time,” Maceda, who also once served as Philippine ambassador to Washington, said, adding, “It’s time to act to regain what is rightfully ours.”

Maceda maintained that the Sultanate of Sulu have a legitimate claim to Sabah “considering that the British and Malaysian governments used to pay rentals for Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu.”

He asserted that renewed government efforts “is the only way to stop the followers of the Sultan of Sulu from taking up arms and invading Sabah to press their claim.”

In a statement, Maceda noted that the Sultanate of Sulu ceded to the Philippine government its title and sovereignty to then-President Diosdado Macapagal in 1962. “The Philippine government should now seriously consider bringing its claim to the United Nations,” he said.

Valte, however, dodged questions on whether Malacañang has plans to send an emissary to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to recall his brother, Crown Prince Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, and his armed followers who were earlier prevented by Malaysian soldiers from entering Sabah.

Valte also deferred comment on Sultan Kiram’s offer to sit down with Malacañang emissaries to discuss options to resolve the Sabah standoff.

The Philippines, meanwhile, called for a peaceful resolution to the tense standoff between Malaysian forces and a group of gunmen claiming to be followers of the heir of a former Borneo sultan.

The group, estimated at 200 with dozens believed to be armed, landed by boat near the town of Lahad Datu in Sabah on Tuesday.

Malaysian police say members of the group claimed they were followers of he Sultan of Sulu, that owns Sabah.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib was quoted by local dailies as saying police were in negotiations with the group and expected the stand-off to be resolved “very soon with the group returning to their home country.”

Malaysian police have set up a series of road blocks along the route leading from Lahad Datu through palm oil plantations to the remote village where the gunmen are. Maritime police were also patrolling the sea.






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